Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blame Games

As Munich continues on its path of disintegration (awards-wise) the blame game has started. Usually this sort of thing happens after Oscar nominations are announced. [Perhaps Universal is bracing for an even more visible shutout than some are predicting?] This same thing happened to a degree with Cold Mountain which was supposed to be the only competition for Return of the King in 2003 and wound up with plenty of nominations but no Best Picture slot. Back then the Brothers Weinstein (of former Miramax glory) blamed it on not enough voters having seen the film and it looks like Munich's backers are experimenting with the same excuse with this film's fate.

But here's a thought for studio finger pointers: If you made the movie and it's a huge high profile one by an A list director and not some itty-bitty arthouse thing --it's your fault that awards voters are not watching the movie in time. They would definitely be willing to see it. They don't need cajoling to sit through it like they sometimes due with underdog fare (like, say, Junebug). It's your fault for rushing it. It's your fault for not getting the screeners out in time. It's your fault. Your fault. What's more if you know (as you seem to) that it's the type of film that requires real grappling with the issues it raises, what the hell are you doing raising the issues just days before people are supposed to vote? (Oscar ballots went out very shortly after Munich's opening). Movies that need to be thoroughly digested usually fare better if you give people time to chew.

These other movies in play for awards? They didn't try to hide themselves until the last minute. This message has been brought to you by Nathaniel's monotonous annual desire to see movies receive proper releases whenever they happen to arrive at a final print rather than ill-advised "peek-a-boo" Oscar tactics. The same goes for The New World. Much as I love the movie, they really ought to disqualify it for nominations since they've altered it post qualifying release, which is technically against the Oscar rules.

The overall take-away message for studios and their Oscar tacticians
Quit trying to get around the system. Quit trying to control the response more than is normal. Yes, you're suppose to help people to like your product. Yes, you're PR teams are supposed to guide perception. But there comes a time when you just let the chips fall where they may. Release your precious movie only after it's finished, do the publicity you're supposed to do, screen it for the critics early like you're supposed to, let people talk about the movie like they're supposed to (you do want audiences to be involved in the moviegoing experience, right?), and let the chips fall where they may. Above all should your movie receive less than glowing response, suck it up. Nobody respects a finger pointer. Just ask Oliver Stone, still trying to blame Alexander's reception on everything but his own moviemaking.

All that said Munich remains a wildcard in the Oscar race. Possibly only A History of Violence is more puzzling to predict in terms of how AMPAS will embrace or reject. Spielberg's examination of the retaliatory assassinations could have a major nomination haul or a total shut-out. We shall see in less than a week.


Anonymous said...

Good read!

This may be asking too much, but are we going to get any indication of the Academy reception of the foreign film screenings? At least the ones that make up your final predictions?

China, Brazil, and South Africa are cool, but after all, the Academy IS overwhelmingly Eurocentric.

- Adam

russtifer said...

Nicely put, Nathaniel.

adam k. said...

Now this was a really good post. Totally worth further waiting for the predictions ; )

Munich IS really puzzling to read. As much as it is their own fault, I think the Munich people have a point when they say that many of the groups that shut it out of awards did not actually see it in time. Because maybe the AMPAS people HAVE seen it time and thus will nominate it for more than it seems they will. What is the actual word on their own screeners and whether people saw it? Cause I could easily see it beating out Capote (which I still don't see as a nominee) if more viewership is there. But yeah, could totally be many nominations or total shut-out... a total shutout would be kind of shocking and fun.

What exactly happened with the New World? How did they manage to alter it post-deadline? Are early reviews not based on the altered movie? I'm so confused. Talk about an underwhelming response, though... somebody involved with the release of that thing totally didn't do their job properly.

Neel Mehta said...

I would add: quit voting for films released after Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Adam, check out Ken Rudolph's site. He's a member of the foreign film committee, and every year he posts his thoughts on all the submitted films, and his predictions for the lineup.

As for The New World, well, are we even sure it's eligible? I think it appeared on the reminder list, but was this before the run?

Glenn Dunks said...

Agreed that that was a great read. (that sentence reads really poorly, i know!)

I agree with Nat though that it is their fault if awards bodies haven't seen the film. Nobody told Spielberg to make the movie in 6 months and release it as late as possible and to do as little press as possible. It's not like holding movies over one year hasn't worked in the past. Plus, they could've released it late Summer and let it work into viewers minds.

I agree that Munich and Violence are the two movies that are the hardest to read in terms of AMPAS. Coincidence that they're both about violence and the repurcussions of said violence. Hmmm. I wanna see both these movies, still.

adam k. said...

Yeah, Violence could be shut out completely or could get like 5 noms. I'm feeling like it will get lots of noms. Screenplay is very likely and director is also likely. And with those two, it'd be weird not to have an acting nominee or two. And they may go for it in makeup. Or even editing (well, maybe not). I'm feeling like it'll get 4 noms. Though I'm now more confident in Langella than Hurt, for some reason. Hmm...

Anonymous said...

I really hope they snub Munich, not that I've seen it yet (what a shocker!). My main gripe was their insistence early on about retaining a sense of dignity by not campaigning, before doing an about turn and having an FYC trade ad everywhere I look. A shutout would serve them right.


Jill said...

I think Munich is fucking brilliant -- Spielberg's best since EMPIRE OF THE SUN -- and totally un-Spielbergian.

And I'm allowed to say this, being an M.O.T., but I think that the fact that Spielberg points fingers at both sides in the Israel/Palestinian conflict is really hurting the film's chances with Jewish Oscar voters. It's a brave stand, especially for a Jewish director with pretty impeccable Jewish cred, but American Jews can be a prickly lot, and showing any sympathy for Palestinians at human beings, or daring to say that for every terrorist you kill, you create siz more, doesn't exactly go over well these days.

And before anyone calls me an anti-Semiate, M.O.T. stands for "member of the tribe." I may not be observant, but if you ask me what I am, I'll say "Jewish."

Glenn Dunks said...

Here in Australia the film is getting savaged by quite a few high profiled critics. Not because of the reasons it appears a lot of American critics dislike it, but moreso because Spielberg is completely insulting the audience by making a below-par action film under the guise of a think-piece. It got 1.5/5 in the Herald and 1/5 in The Age - two very well-read newspapers in my state, not to mention other murderings the movie has gotten.

Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY! » » »